In 1811, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, with the help of a comet and an earthquake, convinced some of the Upper Creek towns of the Muscogee to turn against the white civilization they had begun to embrace. This led to one of the worse massacres on American soil. The Battle of Fort Mims was orchestrated by William “Red Eagle” Weatherford, and, as news of the massacre spread, Americans found themselves in a war against the angry Creek. Although the massacre at Fort Mims served to ignite war with the United States, was this really the beginning? What happened to make William Weatherford and his Red Sticks attack Fort Mims and what was the outcome? Although accounts of the massacre at Fort Mims served to ignite war with the United States and the Creeks, the militia attack at the Battle of Burnt Corn angered the Red Sticks, which is what ultimately led to the slaying of approximately 300 people that day at Fort Mims.
In October, 1811, the great Shawnee leader, Tecumsah, arrived in Muscogee or Creek territory (present day northeast Alabama) with his brother, Tenskwatawa, who was known as The Prophet. Several thousand Creek warriors came to hear Tecumsah speak in this area known as Hickory Ground. Tecumsah was trying to rally tribes to stop the encroachment of Americans onto Native American lands. Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, the Indian agent, was not worried about Tecumsah’s influence over the Muskogee as they were regarded as one of the “Civilized Tribes” of the southeast. Many of them had been baptized into the Christian faith and accepted the Anglo-American culture as their own. The young men of the Muskogee nation were enthralled with Tecumsah whose reputation was already well-known to them. The Prophet, trying to make inroads with the medicine men of the tribe, played on their superstitions by telling of a fiery omen that would soon appear in the night sky. Tenskwatawa had learned of a coming comet from British soldiers. Tecumsah noted that the Muskogee leaders did not seem interested in making war on the Americans. When he presented a present of wampum and a war hatchet to one of the lead chieftains, Tecumsah, in a fit of anger stated,
Your blood is white! You have taken my talk, and the wampum and the
hatchet, but you do not mean to fight. I know the reason. You do not believe the
Great Spirit has sent me. But you shall know. From here I shall go straight to
Canada. When I arrive there I shall stamp the ground with my foot and shake
down every house in this village.
Nature played into Tecumsah’s threat when, legend says, shortly after his return to Canada, an earthquake occurred in northeastern Alabama.
One of the warriors who was in Tecumsah’s audience in October, 1811, was a biracial Creek Native American named William “Red Eagle” Weatherford. William Weatherford was one-eighth Creek; he was the son of a Scot trader, Charles Weatherford, and a biracial Creek woman. William Weatherford, according to legend, stood 6’5” with piercing dark eyes. He was from the Upper Creek towns in the Muskogee nation. William Weatherford preferred the life of a Native American rather than living in Anglo civilization. He felt that the Americans were encroaching on Native American territory, and that was not good for his people. Even feeling this way, William Weatherford did not think the Creek should engage the Americans in war. He pointed out that the Americans, when few in number, had beaten the English in a war and now there were many more Americans. William Weatherford stated that the English were white also and cared for the Native Americans no more than the Americans did. His suggestion was to remain neutral in the American war with the British, but if they had to choose, then the best choice would be the Americans.
Tecumsah’s visit helped ignite the tensions between the Upper and Lower Creeks. The Upper Creek towns were inspired by Tecumseh’s words and their own religious leaders...
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